The tooth fairy (and other strange tooth stories)
As humans, we like to find meaning in every little thing. It’s one of our species’ greatest identifiers: the search for meaning, or creating it where it might not even need to exist. The search for meaning extends to our teeth. Yes, the ones in our mouths. Let’s take a look at some of the peculiar ways we humans attach superstitions to our teeth:
DREAMS ABOUT TEETH…
First, just a single tooth falls out—then, one by one, the rest follow suit. Horrified, you’re left with a gummy, toothless smile (which, honestly, is nothing to smile about). All this, within the span of seconds.
Sound familiar? Dreaming about all your teeth falling out is one of the most universal dream experiences in humanity. As such, humans love to interpret what this common dream could possibly mean.
Explanations range from it being a sign of insecurity, a lack of control, death, rebirth or change, or a feeling of loss.
Regardless of the reason, anyone would wake up from this dream feeling extra grateful for their teeth. And if that’s the sort of motivation YOU need to floss your teeth, well, then no one here is judging!
Awaiting the tooth fairy...
WHEN BABY TEETH FALL OUT…
Losing baby teeth is certainly a more universal experience than just dreaming about it. Interestingly enough, every recorded human culture marks this occasion (or occasions—after all, there are 20 baby teeth to be lost) with some form of tradition.
If you’re from an English-speaking country, you’ve surely heard of the elusive tooth fairy. Place your newly-lost tooth under your pillow at night—try not to be too excited, lest you don’t fall asleep at all—and the tooth fairy should exchange your gift for some small form of monetary compensation. Maybe just a quarter, or a bit more. After all, you did work hard to grow, then lose those teeth. Hopefully, your parents did a good job emulating the tooth fairy.
But, French children don’t have a pretty tooth fairy visiting them—instead, they have La Petite Souris ‘the little mouse’. This little mouse serves pretty much the same function as the tooth fairy, except the little mouse might leave sweets instead of cash. Sweet.
In some Middle Eastern countries, children throw their fallen baby teeth up to the sky. As well, in some Asian countries, children toss theirs on to the roof. Either way, it seems there's no monetary reward here.
If you’re not so keen on tradition, you might be pleased (or horrified) to learn that some people opt to be more crafty—such as by making jewellery out of fallen baby teeth.
Even if you’ve never dreamed about all your teeth falling out, or you never believed in the tooth fairy—you know that your teeth, and caring for them, is important. For this, you only need basic supplies like toothbrushes and toothpaste—no magic required.
But did you know that there are youth experiencing homelessness in Toronto who lack access to these basic oral hygiene supplies? Far from visits from the tooth fairy, these youth face the reality of an unhealthy set of adult teeth—the consequences of which last a lifetime.
We are TorontoTooth, an Agents of Change project funded by York University. Our mission is to raise awareness about, and reduce, oral health inequity in the city of Toronto.
We need your help. Did you know that a donation of just $10 will provide four youth with a dental hygiene kit? Even a single dollar will make a difference. Please click on the link below to make a difference today.